Thursday, September 1, 2016

Andy Stanley: Shepherd or Charlatan

Andy StanleyAndy Stanley is at it again. Many people are up at arms over Stanley's latest comments concerning the fact that Christianity does not need the Bible. In fact, Stanley implies that there was a "pre-bible" version of Christianity. Stanley insists that Christianity is all about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, not the whole Bible. Stanley says that "the foundation of our faith is not the Bible. The foundation of our faith is something that happened in history." Does this comport with what the Scriptures say about the very household of God, the church? Well, let's take a look at the Scriptures and see what they say about Stanley's claim.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. Eph. 2:20
What exactly is "the foundation of the apostles and prophets?" Did Paul mean that the foundation of Christianity is actually men? Of course not! The apostles and prophets stand in the place of divine revelation, the divine message of the God's men. The foundation of the church is not the men, but rather, what the men were: apostles and prophets. Apostles and prophets are sent by God with a message from God. It is that message, the message that has at its center the person and work of Christ, that is the foundation of the church, of Christianity. 
Is the resurrection enough to serve as the foundation of Christianity? Andy Stanley implies that the resurrection of Christ is all the message we need. The foundation of Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If that is actually the case, why do we have so much more than the message of the resurrection in NT Scripture? Certainly the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a necessary component of the gospel, but the resurrection alone is not sufficient to serve as the foundation of the church. To say that the gospel and the foundation of the Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus Christ is incredibly reductionistic. The gospel does not reduce to "Jesus rose from the dead." Christianity cannot be summed up by saying "Jesus rose from the dead." One thing is for sure, the NT writers thought there was more to the gospel, more to Christ's message, more to the missions of Christianity than resurrection because they talked about a lot more than that. 
The really big problem for Stanley is that he claims that Christianity's foundation rests on an event in history and then he dismisses the very source of that event, attempting to divorce the historical event from the historical record. Yes, it is true that Jesus would have still risen from the dead even if we never had a Bible to read about. But we would have no way of knowing about it then would we. Nor would Stanley. It is difficult to take Stanley serious on this subject because he view seems to be remarkably incoherent. Stanley says he believes in a literal Adam and Eve, but not because the Bible says so, but because Jesus seems to have believed in a literal Adam and Eve. Now, if that doesn't cause you to do the biggest palm slap ever, nothing will. And what book tells us that Jesus believed in a literal Adam and Eve, Mr. Stanley? Oh, yes, it is called the Bible. So you do in fact believe in a literal Adam and Eve because the Bible says so. In fact, you also believe that Jesus rose from the dead because the Bible says it happened. Folks, you can't make this stuff up. On one hand, it is very sad, and on the other hand, it is priceless. 
So, why does Andy Stanley want to say that some things in the Bible should not be believed, like the age of the earth, Noah, the Exodus, and so forth while saying that other things ought to be believed even though their source is the same Bible? I think I understand what Stanley is trying to do. You can hear it in his final plea.
It is no secret that a number of people have left evangelicalism because of the offense of many things found in Scripture. The God of the OT is offensive, judgmental, unloving. The miracles of both testaments are just too hard to believe. The moral standards of Scripture are antiquated and outdated. But the history of evangelicals reveals that they have insisted that their membership take God's word at face value. The idea that the earth is only around 6-7 thousand years old is arcane. The global flood is embarrassing to many. A literal Adam and Eve is absurd. The idea of an eternal hell is over the top. That homosexuals cannot love and marry is hateful. On and on the list goes. Stanley wants these people to reconsider Christ because their view of Scripture and of Christianity was wrong. You can be a Christian without taking the Bible at face value. There is a Christianity that is a pre-bible version, the original Christianity. You can believe things that Jesus said without saying you believe something just because the Bible said it. Somehow,  Jesus saying it and the Bible saying it are not the same thing.
The second reason Stanley is doing this is not because he wants to defend Christianity. No one who says that Christianity can be separated from the Bible is interested in defending Christianity. Let's be serious. Stanley wants to defend his empire. The pressures of the culture are weighing on all of us. Abortion, homosexual marriage, gender dysphoria, and other issues are placing more and more pressure on Christianity to conform to the culture or else. If Stanley can reduce the gospel and Christianity to the resurrection, then perhaps this will free people up to affirm what Jesus says without supposed having to take the Bible seriously everywhere it speaks. This way, we don't quite sound so foolish, you know, like those people who say they believe homosexuality is a sin because the Bible says so. There are so many things wrong with what Stanley is saying and I haven't even scratched the surface. I wanted to point out the "why" Stanley is saying what he is saying more than interact with what he actually said. Stanley wants to stop the bleeding of people leaving Christianity. The best way to do that is to remove those elements of Christianity that offend unbelieving hearts. This way, unbelievers can be Christians too. And this way, Stanley gets to keep his megachurch with its thousands of members. That is really what this is all about folks. 

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